Tilly Scantlebury, who fronts the band Lazy Day, credits her compulsive work ethic to two things. The first is the end of a five-year relationship, after which she was so determined not to "let everything go" that she spent every waking hour either in the library studying for her degree (she ended up top of her art history class) or making music. The second thing? Bette Porter from The L Word.
"I genuinely think," she says firmly, "that Bette is responsible for a lot of my life." We're in a pub round the corner from where Scantlebury lives in Camden, north London. She came straight from her day job clutching a newly printed vinyl pressing of the new EP, Ribbons, and is now cradling a glass of red wine. The L Word, in case you've not had the glorious misfortune of watching it, is a beautifully schlocky 00s TV drama set in west Hollywood, which ended the drought of queer female representation on TV with a veritable monsoon of lesbian and bisexual characters. And one of those was the tenacious, ambitious, awful-but-also-kind-of-great Bette Porter. "She's an academic art historian, and she's so powerful. She's the moral of the group, and she often fucks up, but she says sorry after a whole, gruelling self-analysis process," Scantlebury effuses. "I started watching The L Word when I was 13, and I had no idea what the hell was going on but I was unbelievably captivated. I just couldn't believe how much Tina and Bette loved each other, but also how destructive it was so much of the time."
That voracious love, particularly a scene in an elevator near the end (which I won't spoil for you except to suggest not watching with your parents), inspired one of the songs on Ribbons, the debut EP from the dreamy, grunge-pop four-piece, which we're premiering below. "When I watch them on the TV, I hope that's how you see me," sings Scantlebury on "TV", her deep, hazy voice picking its way through a thick wall of sparkling guitars. The song was written just before her relationship ended, and what she thought at the time was an optimistic love song she now sees as something vibrating with self-doubt and false hope. The EP's opening track, "With My Mind", on which Scantlebury works her voice into almost Courtney Love levels of unbridled rage, was written about the same relationship.
"I wrote it when I was in the relationship, but maybe subconsciously I knew it was ending," she recalls. When she came to re-record the solo demo, this time with her band – which comprises drummer Beni Evans, guitarist Liam Hoflay, and bassist Jake Head – and as the initially "sweet, nice" ballad mutated into something with bite and a ticking beat, she found the song's final lyrics so unbearable she had to change them. "It was, 'With my mind she runs, but she can keep it if she needs it'," she explains. Now, the sentiment has flipped from submission to defiant self-preservation: "With my mind she runs / Sometimes I think she took it all / But she can't keep it 'cos I need it." The former version, she says, "felt so horrible to sing. I was like, 'No way man.' The whole feeling of it completely changed. When I wrote it, it was very sweet and gentle, and then it changed to being quite a ferocious thing."
The same can be said for Scantlebury's own confidence, both in her own ability, and in her place in the music scene. Her music is woozy and mesmeric, combining the introspection of Elliott Smith (who gets a name-check on "What's Up"), the reverb-drenched resonance of Slowdive and the wonky pop sensibility of Kate Bush – but it took her a while to believe she had something worthwhile. "I think at the beginning, I didn't see it as a legitimate thing, which I think happens to a lot of people – a lot of women specifically – about self-initiated things. You downplay it, because you're so worried. And then I guess, in a really simple way, I was like, 'No, I want to do this, this is important to me and I feel like I have something worthwhile'. I got over a lot of embarrassment and squeamishness to then be like, 'This is legitimate'."
"Something that started as a small, sad thing is actually so not that anymore. It doesn't mean there's not those quiet moments, but it's become so much bigger than the sum of its parts. And that's a really cool thing."
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